Picture preview: Gerhard Richter's previously unseen November series

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

In this extract from a book of Richter's drawings Dieter Schwarz hails the paper-based interesting additions to his oeuvre

As he was decanting black Edding marker-pen ink, Gerhard Richter found himself watching the ink dripping onto some paper. So, toying with this idea, he tipped some ink onto other sheets and started to use a variety of means to manipulate its flow.

He thinned it with benzene or acetone and added black tusche and other ingredients; as he did so the colour of the fluid changed, developing reddish and blueish hues. Since the paper Richter used for this was highly absorbent, the ink soaked through to the back of the sheets creating two related, reversed images, one on either side. The inks mixed with solvents then soaked down through the stack of sheets leaving ever fainter marks, which linked the figurations together like echoes.

In a few cases Richter applied lacquer to one side of the sheet, or drew pencil lines across the patches of colour, marking particular moments in the flow of shapes. This contemplative game with inks, with Richter leafing forwards and backwards through the sheets, produced twenty-seven two-sided works that follow in a sequence determined by their making. As so often in his long career as a painter, Richter was initially wary of the outcome of this process, set the ensemble aside and postponed his final judgement on it.

One of the distinguishing features of Richter’s working methods is that he is rarely, if ever, satisfied with his own initial gesture, and as a rule subjects it to a lengthy process of critical scrutiny, revision and reworking, from which a work ultimately arises whose substance may by now have progressed far beyond what might have originally appeared to be the artist’s intention.

This is particularly apparent in the case of certain paintings that Richter photographed at various stages during their making. In so doing, he is no different to other painters from the past who have favoured a similar form of self-critique. However, in Richter’s case there is another aspect to this process, which can be seen very well in the November sheets and which could be described as a synthetic reworking. At the same time, it would be wrong to view this as a concept or a method, for the nature of this post-production process is always different, depending on the circumstances of the work in question.

In order to exhibit it in its entirety, facsimiles had to be made of the backs of the seven sheets that had been worked on both sides. Richter subsequently observed that few viewers were able to distinguish the original sheets from the ink-jet reproductions – in an instance of the unintentional confusion of reality and its likeness. When he then returned to November three years after its making, he had a complete set of facsimiles made because this was the only way to view both sides of the twenty-seven sheets at the same time and to come to any conclusions regarding the entire series.

The ensuing sequence, with its regular alternation of recto and verso, conveyed the sense of an almost mechanical process in the virtually symmetrical pairs of images. This series of mirror-image situations gave rise to an interesting factor that Richter had not hitherto been able to deploy so directly in either his drawings or watercolours. In these “reflections” each motif was juxtaposed with its own mirror image, in other words, a particular mimetic relationship ensued, in the sense that the likenesses do not replicate a motif in the usual way but re-present it in reverse.

At the same time, the likeness is so faithful that it is hard to distinguish it from the original motif, indeed the relationship can be reversed – the original and the likeness can be interchanged or become impossible to tell apart. Richter has used reflections in various ways in his work. The pose of the painter checking the accuracy of his own work in a hand-held mirror is familiar from photographs. And in addition to the crystal clear or coloured mirrors that are interspersed in amongst the paintings in Richter’s catalogue raisonné, there are also apparent reflections included in the photographs that make up 128 Details from a Picture (1978) and in the picture sequences in his photo-book Eis (2011). The book War Cut (2004) is constructed from enlarged details of a painting, which are arranged in a complex, self-mirroring sequence.

In his November suite Richter now had material to hand that was by definition an invitation to incorporate the notion of reflection into the work. Not only were there sheets with a mirror image of the motif on the reverse; in some cases the ink that had soaked through layers of sheets created what looked like visual echoes. These factors led to a multiplicity of internal connections that provided a structure for the sequence of images.

Translated from German by Fiona Elliott

800 signed and numbered limited editions of Gerhard Richter's latest book November, consisting of 54 unseen works in ink, will be available from 20 March exclusively at Tate

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album